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Hard Kaur

Hard Kaur has arrived in the Indian market, now she looks to the West for artistic gratification

Neha Sharma Sep 14, 2008
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Courtesy of the Artist

Kaur was a talented dancer/choreographer and had often been the teachers’ favourite for leading dance routines. So the beats inherently commanded her in a way and just like any other kid she was glued to MTV back in the day. “I’d watch stuff like MC Hammer, Nas, Krs 1, Mob Dee and I was blown away. I was completely falling in love with them. They were wearing whatever they wanted to wear, saying whatever they wanted to say. It was very real back then, it wasn’t all about the bling and pretentious display as it is today – even I had a story to tell just like them,” she says, her index finger displaying a chunky piece of bling that flashes with every wave of her hand.

By the time she was 15, she started performing at The Dome in Birmingham and the word spread about the new Asian girl rapper in the hood. From 16 through 18, the lady took seriously to her craft and hibernated in her room writing 16-bar verses and hooks while pursuing fine art at college. At the same time she networked within the Brit underground which was synonymous with bhangra as she suggests: “The UK doesn’t have any real hip-hop scene, the real deal is in the States.” So apparently Kaur had to succumb and trill to Hindi hooks swinging her content to cheesy slurps. The Bollywoodising of Hard Kaur she reasons with ease: “I have to earn my money; I have to feed my mom.” So commercial garbage over artistic integrity ”“ is she a sell out? ”“ “No you can make commercial stuff and still make it sound good.” Now I fall prey to the subjective judgments rhetoric. When I probe her about the worst critique that came her way for her first breakthrough track ”˜Glassy’ she slyly dodges the question not really satisfying our concern, “Well, some people in the Sikh community thought it was outrageous and slutty.” Her eyes riddle me with an accusatory squint as I reframe the question asking of her if any professional musician reacted in the negative. Finally she throws up Dr Zeuss’s spiel ”“ “It’s funny innit that it’s working but it’s a fucking cheesy song!” She’s slick at the art of rolling joints; at this point in the conversation she is onto her second. “We released the single and I start getting more shows. Half the community taunted me and some even called me a prostitute – I ain’t murdering someone or dancing in a strip club!” Then followed shows in London and featuring on BBC Asia – things were on the ascent for Kaur. It was the hard life as Kaur had to juggle between music, fashion school and working at her mom’s beauty salon. But with Kaur’s success, her mother allowed her to shift focus and Kaur took up vocal training at the reputed London School of Music.

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In 2002, Kaur came out with her debut Breathe on Long Time Records. The content on her songs back then seems to stir closer to ”˜real’ hip-hop ”“ she assertively rambles out some lines: “We’re not born for cornershops and 7/11s/Your country’s shit/You took all our jewels/Your Queen is dead” and stuff like “I’m a girl/I’ll kick your ass/Don’t look at the tits, look at my face.” Kaur claims that by the time she was 21, she had made nearly 200,000 pounds off her music. Long Time Records put Kaur on to Simon Cowell’s management company 9 Degrees. They didn’t pay much attention to her as her being Asian wouldn’t work in the market. She put her foot down and demanded they get things rolling. Cowell did get her to record with Biffco in Ireland but things fell flat again. “From EMI to Sony, they said we love you and your music but you are an Indian girl, you’re a rapper. How do we sell you?” Kaur terminated the contract. She finally cut ”˜Glassy’ on a small bhangra label and introduced herself to the Indian market which is now home to her.

Amongst other things, a movie based on Kaur’s life is on the cards. Aditya Bhattacharya approached her for the same, though he has been tied down of late. Kaur thinks the film might take awhile. “I personally wanted the film to open with fucking fire burning and shit with 1984 riots happening,” she says, her eyes ”“ now red from the weed ”“ fluttering with excitement as she speaks about it. She is also managing artists; she is breaking in with her first artiste DharamBeer Singh aka Des-C soon and has also taken an all-girl band under her wing. She also claims that labels such as Warner, Interscope and Sony in the US have her on their ”˜artist to watch out for’ list. As we take our leave she playfully asks the photographer his age and he suggests he is too young for her. “Too bad we can’t make babies then!” she quips, breaking into peals of laughter.

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